rethink ballet

How cool is this new “Rethink Ballet” promotional clip from Boston Ballet?  The slow-motion quality and pared down setting allow for a unique observation of each dancers gorgeous technique.  There’s something so satisfying about seeing the climax of a saut de chat when the moments just before have been warped in temporal extension.  A soaring jump is lovely, but a perfect preparation satiates the soul, am I right?  Stretched speeds, prolonged lines, and an apparent refusal to accept all matters of physics.  Are you rethinking ballet yet?

Tonight I will be attending BB’s final program at the Boston Opera House, Thrill of Contact, and with Balanchine, Forsythe, Robbins and Cirio on the bill, I must say my hopes are very high.  Such an incredible repertoire, and the charming principal dancer Jeffrey Cirio’s mainstage debut as a choreographer- sign me up!

balance, balanchine, and broken bones

In so many ways, this season has been one that I will always remember.

I started out by taking a little trip down memory lane, recreating two pieces I first performed in high school…546956_3917191296764_1686849931_n156490_3966715814846_1748587314_n

…and also performing in an explosive World Premiere by the edgy Georgian choreographer, George Birkhadze, who currently resides in Boston with his beautiful Boston-Ballet-Soloist wife.  Performing alongside me in this particular piece were two of my best friends.  How lucky am I to have the honor of sharing the experience of learning, rehearsing and performing a brand new work with two of my besties?!601918_4290054418109_642117256_n

Next came The Nutcracker.  Considering the fact that I have been onstage in this very production of the holiday classic for 14 years now, the fact that I can call this one memorable is a biiig deal.  This year I was challenged with the role of the Spanish divert.  With blonde hair and Scandinavian roots, I had several meltdowns about the intimidating task of performing with that unmistakable snappy Spanish flare before dancing the role opening night and surprising myself with a confidence I never knew I had.  Special shout out to Alex for making it one of the most fun parts I’ve ever danced!548767_4140715164721_1205807527_n

After Nut came our collaboration with the Rhode Island School of Design’s fashion/apparel department and Boston Ballet’s Boyko Dossev for Little Red Riding Hood.  The second installment of Boyko’s choreography on FBP designed for a young audience, this show was accented by hand-made (by students my age!) costumes, each more interesting than the next.  We also got to model in the RISD fashion critique, and a few of my fellow bunheads are walking (and dancing?) in the world-famous RISD fashion show this weekend!  How cool!12977_4448438137603_1496460035_n 999c2881

The next show, Agon & Orchis, was without a doubt the most memorable of my career so far.  My first time ever performing a Balanchine work would have been memorable enough, but Agon surpassed even my own expectations.  What an incredibly daunting and rewarding ballet it was.  I’m telling you, Agon is known to be one of Mr. B’s most complicated ballets (so much counting!) and performing two very different roles forced me to really think, instead of relying on muscle memory.  Such a unique experience!  Working with one of Balanchine’s original dancers, Sandra Jennings, was equally amazing.  I mean, she is a legend in the ballet world.  Growing close with her and hearing her feedback on my performance was incredible.  Orchis, an all-new contemporary ballet and the collaborative brainchild of choreographer Viktor Plotnikov, photographer Cemal Ekin, RI glass artist Toots Zynsky, RISD fashion department head Beth Bentley, Russian composer Sonya Belousova, and lighting designer Alan Pickart, will not soon be forgotten by anyone involved, including our audience.  There’s little I can say for Orchis besides masterpiece.  A genius, surreal, gravity-defying work of art.  I will always remember this ballet, and look forward to hopefully dancing it again one day.  I even made it into a major Turkish magazine!734409_494802730582057_621539993_n 577228_4638749775275_1357548708_nHurriyet 74408_4646266523189_445316378_n 74431_4646267563215_938506634_n

Also contributing to my inclination toward this show is the fact that following opening night’s performance, I was promoted from Apprentice to full Company Member.  This is something I have been working toward since my first time dancing in a ballet 14 years ago.  To have all of the blood, sweat and tears I’ve shed throughout the years recognized in such a public and exciting way was so special.  A fulfilling moment in my life that I will hold onto forever, for sure.482297_10152654690810385_817495648_n

So then it was on to my first performance with my new company status.  Another round of original and classical works for the upcoming Up Close series.  I was to perform in 3 different pieces.  This is when the back pain I’d been feeling all year started to get real.  I would walk home slumped over like an old woman, and spend weeks at a time flat on the couch, unable to bend or twist at all.  I pulled it together enough to dance one of the pieces I was cast in, as well as an encore production of Little Red that same weekend.  Doing so, however, left my back in more severe pain than I’d ever felt before.  The company dove into rehearsals for our Spring show, The Sleeping Beauty, in which I was cast in several of my dream roles…Bluebird and Lilac Fairy.  But as the company rehearsed, I watched from the side in my corset-like back brace, trying to pick up the choreography and intricate miming without tipping to either side, as not to upset my angry back muscles.  It was only a few days later when I received my first ever bone scan, and became aware of the stress fracture in my spine that I’m convinced has been hanging out back there for quiiiite a few months now.  So that was that.  I left the hospital with a fracture, a heavy heart and orders not too dance for 6-8 weeks.

This injury, however sad and painful, has brought to light some kind of strange inner peace.  To have my pain justified, the opportunity to see my friends perform Sleeping Beauty, new Parisian plans to take French language classes instead of the dance intensive this summer…these things have all changed me for the better.  I remember the first time I fell onstage.  I was performing Musicbox, the solo pictured in the first photo of this post.  After I came off stage, one of the principle dancers with FBP, who was also my teacher at the time, told me, “Welcome to the club.  Every professional dancer has at least one big fall.  Now you’re one of us.”  I will never forget those kind words.  Now, as I experience the hardships of my first real injury, her reassurance that these things are all part of this profession comforts me.  Knowing that I am not the first, and will surely not be the last ballet dancer to suffer a spinal stress fracture keeps me balanced.  In a way, it almost feels good- emphasis on the almost– to think that this injury is a result of all my hard work this year.  A badge of honor, so to speak.  So now that it’s summer, cheers to a wonderful season full of ups and downs (but mostly ups!), locating my inner sass, Balanchine counting and petit allegro, floating Orchids, a promotion and a stress fracture.  Next up, Paris!  Stay tuned…

one more day.

We became moving sculptures in the genius hands of Viktor Plotnikov.72694_490503401011990_2141643510_nWe practiced and perfected the infamous “big lift”.11508_490911080971222_308885423_nWe memorized the incredibly complicated counts that define the “Agon” between Balanchine and Stravinsky.549274_491364484259215_520626236_nWe studied the lines of not only our own bodies, but those of our partners.553286_491740090888321_184200034_nWe worked tirelessly with dedicated Balanchine repetiteur, Sandy Jennings to ensure that each head, hand, and foot movement was exactly right.blogWe were published in a Turkish magazine.
486083_492703234125340_240110261_nWe pushed our bodies to their limits.576313_493423667386630_334851691_nAnd surpassed them.535381_493983373997326_1757694818_nNow we bring you Agon & Orchis.
549390_494358950626435_399566635_nPlease do not miss it.

happy birthday, balanchine!

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What better way to celebrate George Balanchine’s 109th birthday than completing, running, and filming Agon on our final day with Sandy Jennings.  It’s been such a wonderful experience getting to truly dive into this brilliant man’s unique choreography for the first time.  It’s the most confusing, stylized, specific and freeing kind of dancing I have ever done.  It will certainly be a bit nerve-racking, but I can’t wait to perform it on stage in March.  I hope we’ve been making you proud for the past week, Mr. B.  Happy Birthday!

the contest

NYT Agon Article

At the beginning of the week, this review of Balanchine’s Agon from its original premiere with New York City Ballet in 1957 was posted on our bulletin board at FBP, and I found it extremely interesting.  In fact, it may be the most engaging dance review I’ve ever read.  It’s a detailed, thought-provoking assessment of the ballet, one that I believe gives the reader a rare peek at the intricacies of the choreography and its relationship with Stravinsky’s calculated score.  I’ve learned through attempting to blog about our work on Agon that it is an extremely difficult ballet to put into words.  Equally difficult to describe is the revolutionary connection between movement and music that has been imitated but never replicated since.  This article points out just how hard this ballet is to choreograph, compose, play and dance, and for that I must bow down in appreciation.

kelly-plum fairy

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Kelly Ripa Auditions For The Nutcracker

In keeping with this week’s Nutcracker theme, I thought I’d share this little video I stumbled upon this morning (click the link above).  I’ve always been a fan of Kelly’s energy and perfectly timed quips, but after seeing her appreciation and enthusiasm towards ballet, I love her more than ever.  Can’t wait to head off to the city to see NYCB’s show!

What do you think of Kelly’s audition?  I think she really had some nice lines there.  Pointed feet and pretty natural turnout, too…go Kelly!

sunday funday

Hello all!  Hope everyone is having a fantastic weekend.  It’s definitely been an interesting one at FBP…

 Sandra Jennings, New York City Ballet alumna and active member of the Balanchine Trust, has been in town all week setting George Balanchine’s Agon, and let me just say this now- it is hard.  But not just regular, run of the mill challenging.  It’s more like count until your brain hurts, memorize each minut detail, perfect the fancy footwork, extend each developpé higher than your ears, and oh yeah, don’t forget to stylize everything you do difficult.  On top of that, due to Sandra’s extremely busy schedule, she was only available to us for a week, and this ballet takes more than our requisite 5 working days to set, which meaaaaans…..SUNDAY REHEARSAL!  It wasn’t all that bad, though. The lovely Ms. Jennings surprised us all with a few boxes of delicious Seven Stars pastries and an entire CVS-shelf’s worth of Emergen-C packets.  A fantastic surprise indeed!  Especially for a company that is all too easily won over by a few good croissants.

Although it has been really fun learning Agon and working with Sandy, I am beyond thrilled to finally have a day off tomorrow, which will hopefully be spent relaxing around the house in my sweats.  Happy Sunday! xx